Three-time world champion Niki Lauda has written off Lewis Hamilton’s title hopes for this season, believing that Sebastian Vettel will seal a fourth consecutive championship with races to spare.
Lauda, who holds the role of non-executive chairman at Mercedes, but he has not played up the chances of one of his drivers winning the drivers’ championship in this season, even going as far as to predict that Vettel will become world champion at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.
“Vettel is no longer fighting anyone,” Lauda told German publciation Bild. “I am committing myself: in Abu Dhabi, he is world champion.”
“His lead is already big enough after Spa, where he dominated even though the Red Bull was not really suited to the track. His best circuits are still yet to come. Red Bull won’t be the favourite at Monza but on all other circuits he has the best car.”
The German driver has built up a sizeable lead in the last few races, putting him in a strong position to win a fourth consecutive title. Last year, he trailed Fernando Alonso by a mammoth 39 points following the Italian Grand Prix before hitting the front during the Asian rounds, winning four consecutive races and eventually claiming the title in Brazil. Therefore, it is hard to see Vettel not winning this year’s championship, but his fortunes could very easily change at Monza next weekend.
Hamilton did appear to be one of the few drivers who could seriously challenge Vettel heading into the second half of the season, but the Briton’s inability to put up a fight at the Belgian Grand Prix despite starting from pole position suggests that his car doesn’t quite have the pace to tackle the Red Bull this season.
Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).
It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).
Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.
The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.
“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”
“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”